I had an interesting one yesterday. I picked up our youngest from school and a dad said to me as he walked past the car "I think you've got a bit of a soft tyre" I went round to the passenger side and sure enough the rear tyre looked like I felt, a bit flat.
Hmmm. What to do?
When you have a foster child in your car you tend to feel extra responsibility. A small voice shrieks a headline:
'FOSTER CARER DROVE WITH A FLAT TYRE!'
My stress level rose to 60 on a scale of 100. Calm though.
But then I always remember the best bit of advice anyone at Blue Sky ever gave me which was "Use your common sense". If it was a flat tyre it would have gone right down to the rim, instead it just bulged slightly at the ground.
I wondered about calling the AA. But I wasn't sure that I could leave the car where it was for however long they'd take to arrive. And anyway I had another child to pick up from the other side of town in about an hour and a bit.
The question was; "Is it a slow puncture or does it just need a bit more air?"
Bear in mind I've heard the phrase "slow puncture" dozens of times without ever really knowing what it is except it's less serious than a nail sticking out but more serious than a tyre that hasn't been puffed up recently.
There's a garage about a mile away with an air machine, it's only about half a mile from home.
I decided to crawl there. Extra-carefully. Foster child on board.
Big but quiet roundabout. Foster child getting interested in the possibility that a flat tyre might mean no school tomorrow. I'm keeping the conversation going while concentrating double hard on the road. Foster carers know this type of driving, where you often miss what's said to you because you're waiting your turn to go out onto a roundabout and that's more important than chit chat. However the child ignites if you miss a question, so I'm on my toes alright.
Stress: 70/100. Calm outside. Not quite so calm inside.
A steady drive along a straight road and onto the garage forecourt and up to the machine.
The air machine takes twenty pence pieces. I have one. Only one. There's a chance there are more down the back of the seat, but let's hope one will do. I unscrew the dust cap, put in a twenty piece and try to stick the nozzle onto the tyre valve. Nothing. No air.
I check the instructions on the machine. You are supposed to press the nozzle onto the valve BEFORE you insert your twenty pence.
Stress level 80/100. Calm on the outside, oh yes.
I decide to drive cautiously home. Accidentally leave the dust cap on the forecourt. Rat run off the main road and onto adjoining housing estate, manage to get onto our drive.
Get onto the phone to AA. Press wrong option on automated switchboard "If you require further advice on how to position your broken down car press 1 now" because I'm also on the landline to the after-school club to tell them to hold the other child as I may be late. They don't pick up.
Phone Blue Sky as I have a meeting at their office first thing tomorrow and I don't want them not knowing I have a problem, people may be saved a journey if they are alerted before close of business tonight. The Blue Sky switchboard offer to run upstairs and pass on the message, but the phone link goes dead before I get confirmation.
The AA advise they can make the car good by switching the soft tyre for the spare but I need to get it to the garage for a tyre check pronto as a spare is not as good as a real one.
Now on the landline with one ear to the after-school club and on my mobile with the other ear to the local garage.
Stress 90/100. But still exuding calm on the outside. Inside; kicking the cat.
AA arrive. Changeover will take 10 minutes. Garage confirms booking for 9.00am tomorrow. Blue Sky email back message received. After school club not confirmed. After school ends at 4.30pm, no way can I get there until 4.45pm. Have to hope they hold child.
Stress 85/100. Winning.
Jump in car. Cannot do more than 50 on a spare says AA man. Decide to get smart and take the back way across town, miss the big build up on the main road.
Aaargh! Roadworks on the back way! Solid tail-to-tail.
Stress back to 90/100. Still outwardly calm and in control.
Take wrong turning, but still manage to pull into after school club only 15 minutes late to discover they had no problem waiting for me, but do have a problem answering the phone as it's in an office and they are in the hall.
Job done. Stress declining by the second. Home.
Other half comes home, stress now apparently down to normal domestic level: 15/100.
Other half too tired to pay much attention to my stressful hour, so I end up giving him both barrels of my pent-upness in the privacy of the kitchen. We then made up and that was that.
I tell you this purely as self-help therapy, plus a reminder to self that one of the great things about marriage (or a partnership) is you can take it out on the other half, and still be friends.